Campylobacter is the pathogen making most people sick in the United Kingdom and, earlier this week, the U.K.’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) formally agreed to target the problem at its principal source: poultry production. FSA has decided to require reporting of campylobacter levels all along the supply chain, dropping regulatory barriers to the adoption of what it calls “new and effective technological innovations for reducing campylobacter risks at all stages in the food supply chain,” and using regulations as necessary to “drive changes in behavior and approach.” FSA’s own study five years ago found 65 percent of the chicken for sale in U.K. shops was contaminated with campylobacter. It is the most common cause of foodborne illnesses in the UK, making 460,000 people sick, sending 22,000 to hospitals, and causing about 110 deaths annually. Catherine Brown, FSA’s chief executive officer, called for a “shift in culture” by both the government and the poultry industry. “I feel that because this is a complex and difficult issue, there has tended to be an acceptance that a high level of contamination will inevitability occur and there is little that can be done to prevent it,” Brown said. FSA plans to change the way the British poultry industry works, beginning with improving farm biosecurity and continuing with steps to prevent carcass contamination during slaughter. It also wants the industry to explore changes in packaging that might reduce cross-contamination by both food services and consumers. Etta Campbell, an FSA board member, said the issue, brought forward in an agency research paper, needed a greater “sense of urgency.” Steve Wearne, a co-author of the paper, said there’s been a lot of disappointment because campylobacter levels monitored during the past 12 months showed no improvement from the high levels recorded in 2007 and 2008. Brown and Andrew Large, chief executive of the British Poultry Council (BPC), appeared together on a BBC breakfast program to warn consumers to thoroughly cook chicken and keep kitchens clean because campylobacter contamination levels remain high. Campylobacter and Salmonella contamination is also a problem in the U.S. However, USDA has not been able to change its 1950s-style carcass inspection system that focuses more on feathers and bruises than on deadly pathogens, due in part to union concern over possible job losses. In the U.S. in 2009, two-thirds of fresh broiler chickens purchased in 22 states were contaminated with Salmonella and/or Campylobacter, according to Consumer Reports. The same CR study found that most of the chicken carrying one or both of those pathogens were also resistant to at least one antibiotic, which makes treating foodborne illness much more challenging.